By Vicki Brown
Camdenton — Camden County planning and zoning commissioners delayed action on a zoning change that would have allowed development of land formerly owned by Windermere Baptist Conference Center.
Springfield businessman William Jester will have to wait another month to find out whether his company, Pinnacle Pointe Development, can move forward with planned residential housing on 1,005 acres. The Missouri Baptist Convention claims 943 of those acres.
Commissioners delayed action on the request to change the land’s zoning from P-2 Commercial Park to R-1 Residential at their regular monthly meeting on May 21.
Several area residents had expressed concern and had encouraged commissioners to deny the request at a public hearing on April 16.
“Ownership still seems to be the issue, and we tie our decision to property ownership,” planning director Chris Hall explained by phone on May 22.
The delay, Hall said, stems from the fact that the county’s legal counsel has not yet issued an opinion. The development firm has a warranty deed and “the paperwork that shows the property belongs to the owner,” he said. But two pending court cases — one on appeal from Cole County and one in Camden County — have created conflict over ownership.
Commissioners are hoping another month will give attorneys sufficient time to provide them a legal opinion, Hall said.
As part of a 2006 debt restructuring plan to cover its Wilderness Creek expansion, Windermere transferred 943 acres of its 1,300 acres to National City Bank of Cincinnati in late 2005. The bank sold the property to Windermere Development Company Inc., also owned by Jester.
The MBC filed a lawsuit in Camden County on Nov. 1, 2006, seeking to stop all land transactions at Windermere pending the outcome of legal action the convention had taken against five formerly affiliated institutions, including the conference center, in Cole County in 2002.
In its Camden County suit, the convention also has requested an injunction to prohibit Jester from financing and beginning construction on the property.
The MBC filed legal action against Windermere, The Baptist Home, Missouri Baptist University, the Missouri Baptist Foundation and Word&Way after the five entities changed their corporate charters in 2000 and 2001 to allow each institution to elect its own trustees.
At the April 16 planning and zoning hearing, Hall noted Pinnacle Point’s acreage is surrounded by residential and agricultural use land. The area contains some P-2 commercial park zoning, but about 85 percent of the land is zoned R1, he said. At that time, Hall recommended commissioners approve the request.
The commissioners had received a letter from MBC lead attorney Michael Whitehead informing them that the convention will appeal Cole County Circuit Court Judge Richard Callahan’s March 4 decision that Windermere had acted legally when it changed its charter.